Paths to Pleasure - Page 3

In bike-friendly, eco-conscious North Davis, a neighborhood of 200 Streng homes finds common ground on the greenbelt
Paths to Pleasure
Paths to Pleasure
Unique sculptures, like these, can be found on the greenbelt.
Paths to Pleasure
North Davis neighbors hang out together on the Hermosa Place cul-de-sac, where Streng co-founder Bill Streng still lives: (L-R) Garda Johnson, Vickie Moering, Paul Moering, Bill Streng, and Karmen Streng.

This was, not coincidentally, a few years before the Strengs began developing in North Davis. Their earlier Davis neighborhoods are charming but lack greenbelts.

Bike town though it be, Davis is still a sprawling suburban town, not a compact downtown like San Francisco, where people can leave the car at home and take public transportation or walk.

The university runs a transit service open to all, but in the main, walking is for recreation more than for transportation. "When you want to get somewhere, you get on your bike," Handy says. "The distances [from place to place] are a little too far [for walking]."

While almost everybody in Davis bikes, the appeal of the paths goes beyond those who do.

Many of the cul-de-sacs that make up much of North Davis are sociable places, with neighbors walking together on the paths, and gathering at the meadows and playgrounds that are part of the greenbelt for get-togethers.

"It helps people socialize more," says James Millar, who grew up in a Streng home in the neighborhood. "Otherwise people wouldn't get out so much and talk to their neighbors."

Garda Johnson, an original resident, loves the neighborhood because it is so friendly. "I've thought about downsizing," she says, "but I really can't leave."

And, folks say, the greenbelt doesn't encourage criminals to visit or even attract many rowdy teens. Motorized traffic of any sort is banned, though on a recent weekend a golf cart was spotted puttering along.

On a recent sunny Sunday, a group of neighbors, some of them among the many original owners who remain in the neighborhood, gathered at the ‘meadow' where Hermosa Place meets the greenbelt for snacks, soft drinks, and wine. Among them was Bill Streng, who developed portions of the neighborhood with his brother Jim.

Bill and his wife Karmen bought the first Streng home built on the cul-de-sac and one of the first in the neighborhood, and they've lived there since. Streng is surely one of the few tract home developers who has lived so long surrounded by his customers.

The Strengs enjoy the greenbelts as much as anyone. But Bill was far from a greenbelt visionary when he, the engineers he hired, and the landscapers they hired laid out the greenbelts in the late 1970s, tying them into a network that had been begun by a different developer.

The Strengs provided the greenbelts not because they loved nature, admired the 19th century English planner Ebenezer Howard's book Garden Cities of To-morrow, or even saw greenbelts as a marketing tool. They did it because "the city had a policy. They wanted ten percent of the dirt to be green," Bill says.

"The city of Davis wanted the greenbelts," he says. That cut into profits.